WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown today announced a new initiative to improve veterans access to the benefits they have earned. Brown's Benefit Rating Acceleration for Veteran Entitlements (BRAVE) Act would create a new fast-track system for veterans with disabilities to qualify for benefits from both the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Social Security Administration (SSA).

"Honoring our nation's veterans means fulfilling our promise to them," Brown said. "Veterans in Ohio and across the country must receive benefits in a manner befitting their service. I'm introducing the BRAVE Act to streamline the disability claims process and to ensure our veterans have access to the full benefits they have earned."

While the SSA and VA use nearly identical definitions of disability, veterans must apply separately to qualify for benefits based on disability. The Dole-Shalala Commission reports, however, that only 61 percent of veterans across the nation who are granted individual unemployability and only 54 percent of those rated 100 percent by VA also receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Ohio has one of the longest wait times for SSDI in the country with processing times averaging 621 days.

Brown's BRAVE Act would eliminate the repetitive and often lengthy eligibility process disabled veterans must undergo to receive full benefits from the VA and Social Security. The BRAVE Act would require the SSA to accept eligibility requirements for any veteran who qualifies under the VA guidelines. Veterans who receive compensation from the VA would be fast-tracked in disability benefits processing by SSA. Brown's BRAVE Act has received support from the Paralyzed Veterans Association.

Following the call, Brown released a county-by-county report detailing the number of Ohio veterans receiving VA benefits. In Ohio, more than 122,000 veterans and survivors currently receive disability compensation.

Brown is a member of the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He recently attended the White House bill signing ceremony for the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which guarantees timely funding for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) so it can continue to improve the medical care it provides to our nation's veterans. Brown is also the author of two legislative initiatives, the Veterans Education Tuition Support (VETS) Act of 2009 and the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act, which would strengthen our nation's commitment to veterans by improving education reimbursements and expanding employment protection for former service members.